SCL Lecture Series: Presidential Elections and International Prosecutions – Kenya’s Conundrum

On the 12th of June, a panel of experts addressed a packed audience at The Hague Institute on the subject of the recent presidential elections in Kenya and the impact of the International Criminal Court (ICC) case against Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto on the outcome of these elections.

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Photo: The Hague Institute/Amy Tan

Mr. Abdulkadir Noormohamed (Legal Officer, Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa) opined that the ICC indictment was a deciding factor in the presidential elections, as the political rhetoric employed by Kenyatta and Ruto portrayed the duo as victims of an ICC-led attempt by the West to re-colonize Africa. The election was even touted as a ‘referendum’ on the ICC. Mr. Noormohamed described how the failure of electronic tallying equipment during the election led to the manual tallying of votes, which allowed for the manipulation of the final result in Kenyatta’s favor. Mr. Noormohamed detailed the failure of attempts to challenge this result, stating: ‘we were told to accept the victory because peace was more important than truth or justice. Kenya has no peace, but an uneasy calm held together by lies and propaganda. Moving on has become a new national mantra’.

Ms. Esther Waweru (Program Officer, Kenya Human Rights Commission) spoke about the impact of the elections on the work of Kenyan civil society organizations (CSO), which have been at the forefront of the fight for accountability. Ms. Waweru stated that CSOs have been vilified by the mainstream media and on social media platforms in the aftermath of the elections, with persistent accusations that CSOs are funded by foreign agents attempting to undermine Kenya’s sovereignty. In response to a question from an audience member, Ms. Waweru stated that the failure of the ICC cases would have disastrous consequences for Kenya, allowing impunity to reign. She noted that many victims have lost faith in the ICC, and quoted survey results showing that support for the ICC has dropped from 89% to 50% between June 2011 and June 2013.

Mr. George Kegoro (Executive Director, International Commission of Jurists, Kenya) elaborated on how Kenyatta and Ruto united to create a political platform based on opposition to the ICC, which resulted in their victory at the presidential elections. Mr. Kegoro then discussed Kenya’s recent diplomatic efforts to undermine the ICC case against Kenyatta and Ruto. He described these efforts as laying the groundwork for Kenya’s eventual withdrawal from the Rome Statute. Mr. Kegoro also addressed the crackdown on media freedom in Kenya, stating that ‘there is an embedded relationship between the media and the political establishment based on ownership and shared interest’. He warned that domestic accountability is going to be a significant challenge under the new regime.

This lecture was moderated by Mr. Steve Lamony, Senior Adviser – AU, UN and Africa Situations, Coalition for the ICC. It is the fourth lecture of the Supranational Criminal Law Lecture Series organized jointly by The Hague Institute, the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, the Asser Institute, and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. The next lecture in the series was held on Wednesday, 26th June at The Hague Institute and focused on responsibility and control in international criminal law.

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